9th June 2020
Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on the 25 May 2020, the world has seen protests, campaigning and millions of people taking to social media to raise awareness, share stories and show their support.
Many businesses across the globe have also released press statements or posted social media pledges to do more to support the BLM movement, be more inclusive and stamp out racism in their workplace.
Racism is still a problem in many UK workplaces. More than half of UK employees have witnessed racism at work but only 2 thirds would report it to their employer. Black people were the demographic most likely to experience racism at work with 69% witnessing or experiencing racism*.
All employers should be aware of their legal responsibilities when it comes to protecting their workforce from racism along with being inclusive when it comes to job opportunities, promotions and the treatment of all stakeholders in their business.
If a workplace fails to address racism then they could face a costly employment tribunal, face criminal action and severe damage to the company’s reputation and brand.
The CEO of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, has recently come under fire for comments he made on Twitter in relation to George Floyd, and whilst they may have been poorly judged posts, it has done significant damage to the company with brands such as Reebok cutting ties with the exercise franchise.
Even major brands with large legal teams have made mistakes when it comes to misunderstanding racism. In 2017 Kendall Jenner starred in a Pepsi advert that saw her smooth over confrontations with American police at what appears to be a protest about race with a cold can of soft drink.
Employers need to fully understand that they are accountable for their actions across all areas of their business when it comes to racial discrimination and in some cases. From their recruitment process and management, through to their customer service, social media and advertising.
Companies set to lose out if they do not embrace a diverse workplace culture that incorporates the ideas, knowledge, input and experience of people from all different backgrounds.
In the UK, employees are legally protected from racial discrimination by the Equality Act 2010. Employers must not discriminate because of their race, colour, ethnic or national origin and nationality. These are all considered protected characteristics, along with age, sex, disability, gender reassignment, religion/beliefs, marital status, sexual orientation and pregnancy/maternity.
Discrimination includes direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation, harassment, discrimination by association.
Employers can be viable for the actions of their workers if they do not take reasonable steps to avoid discrimination from taking place and workers can find themselves personally liable for their discriminatory actions in the course of employment.
Prevention is always better than cure, so it is vital to get your workplace procedures and culture right in order to safeguard your business.
If you need support to get you up to speed and sense check your workplace policies, then please get in touch with our employment law specialists at Lamb Brooks. Should you find yourself needing legal support with a claim being made against you, then we are also here to help you navigate the stressful and daunting process of employment tribunals.
Following the increased media coverage and onus on employers to protect their staff, we are also able to offer management training in order to give a more detailed overview of your legal responsibilities on discrimination and race. These can be tailored sessions via Zoom or something to consider holding in your workplace once lockdown restrictions are lifted.
For more information or assistance please contact Karen Bristow, Head of Employment Law on 01256 844888, email firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to our online chat assistant.
*People Management Survey March 2018.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
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